Southern Utah and Vegas (Octopus, Slots, Polygamists, and Ponyo Pancakes)

Ahhhh how I miss the desert lands of southern Utah. The sweeping vistas, the towering red rocks, the sunsets, the dry heat, the fundamentalist Mormons. KM grew up in various western states, and spent wonderful days, decades distant, in the canyons near St. George, UT. How great it was to return! Riding through the desert, the top of Pa's convertible Mustang down, I heard Calexico music playing in my head as I watched hawks circle in the sky above and imagined that every RV we passed was a meth lab (the missus and I are big fans of Breaking Bad).

With family in St. George, Utah, a little over 2 hours from Las Vegas, we took a week's vacation that included hiking the slot canyons, a trip through Zion Nat'l Park, a very brief night in Las Vegas, and of course, a lot of excellent food. Let's recap, shall we?

The photo you see here was from the last night of the trip, when we stayed for a night at the Palazzo Hotel in Vegas. The photo just below was taken from our room on the 44th floor, looking down on the hotel pools far below.

We spent most of the day inhaling rum drinks while sitting in those pools. At night, we had a costly but delicious dinner at B & B Ristorante, located inside the long hall between the Palazzo and the Venetian. This is one of Mario Batali's places. I've never been a huge fan of the red-headed, girthful, TV chef, and I'm always very skeptical about restaurants owned by celebrity chefs (particularly ones who wear crocs--I don't give a fig if they're popular in the industry, they're damned ugly), but I have to say the grilled octopus appetizer and the short ribs were pretty good. The place does have possibly the worst view of any higher-priced restaurant anywhere.

Prior to Vegas, we spent a few days in St. George, including time by the pool, and a birthday dinner I cooked for my brother, consisting of fish tacos and (for me and the missus) some delicious Polygamy Porter. The slogan for the brew is "why have just one?" Ahhhh, those cheeky non-Mormon Utahns (yes, "Utahns" is the proper designation).

Prior to that was a trip to the breathtaking Zion National Park. After a day spent hiking, we refreshed ourselves with beer and excellent food at the Spotted Dog. The menu, like many in high-tourist zones, is fairly standard fare, but the food was excellent, and unlike B & B the Spotted Dog has one of the better views of any restaurant:

Incidentally, the photo you see at the very top of this post was from a hike we did in Kannaraville Canyon, one of the many "slot" canyons in southern Utah.

And I almost forgot! My adorable niece, who was also visiting St. George with my brother and his family, is a huge fan of Ponyo, the latest creation of the completely brilliant and unsurpassable Hayao Miyazaki (if you have not seen Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, or Nausicaa, I feel genuinely envious of you. Go rent or buy them NOW!) Anyway, since she was obviously enraptured with the movie and its title character, a young goldfish/mermaid, I ran to the store for a bit of food coloring and made this "Ponyo Pancake," which she devoured immediately, getting syrup in her hair in the process.

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